For three consecutive years, Trevin Wade and Robert Golden manned Arizona’s defensive backfield.
Together, the three-year starters teamed up to bring technique and physicality to the secondary as they combined to pick off 16 balls, score four defensive touchdowns, and break up 46 passes during their four years at Arizona.
This Thursday through Saturday during the 2012 NFL draft, the former Wildcats will find out how much weight that production carries with coaches and general managers when their NFL fate is decided.
“Those are two great guys that I was fortunate enough to coach,” said Oklahoma graduate assistant Ryan Walters, former Arizona secondary coach. “I’m super proud. Those guys worked their tails off. Really showed what kind of men they were throughout last year.”
Although he was undrafted, Walters went through the draft process about three years ago after graduating from Colorado, where he was a standout defensive back.
Walters talks to both Wade and Golden on a weekly basis, helping his former pupils through one of the most stressful times of their lives.
“I told them both not to even watch the draft,” Walters said. “Everything is out of their hands. They’ve done all the hard work and the interviews and preparing their bodies for testing. Both those guys put up good numbers. Trevin had a great combine, boosted his stock and Robert had a great pro day.”
Walters said he had a feeling where both Wade and Golden would go if they made it, but he didn’t want to “jinx them.” Walters would, however, reveal that he’s “heard good things.”
At this time last year, Wade wasn’t on anyone’s draft radar.
After bursting onto the scene with nine interceptions in his first two seasons, Wade disappeared in his junior season. Thanks to what he called poor work ethic, along with a lingering thigh injury, Wade picked off only one pass and deflected only three his junior season. Wade looked lost and seemed like an afterthought for coaches and general managers.
What a difference a year can make.
Wade rediscovered his underclassman form last season, had an impressive showing at the NFL Scouting Combine and is expected to be selected anywhere from the second to fifth round.
“He had a great senior season,” Walters said. “He’s a very smart player, does a lot of film study. He has good ball skills and recognizes routes pretty quickly. He has really good lateral movement. He’s a sure tackler. I think he’d be a good corner or a good nickel. I think he’ll do great.”
Walters isn’t the only one who thinks so.
Former UA quarterback coach Frank Scelfo, who’s trained a handful of NFL players, said he can see Wade going anywhere between the second and fourth round.
Arizona’s previous outside receivers coach Dave Nichol said “people make a lot of money” playing with the ball skills, intelligence and smarts that Wade possesses.
Wade’s teammates also raved about his technique, which they think will help him have a long and successful career.
“I think he has a great opportunity. He’ll get drafted pretty high,” said former UA quarterback Nick Foles. “He’s a solid individual, smart kid. He’s a very good player, very instinctive. He can play the game.”
Since his solid combine performance, Wade, originally from Round Rock, Texas, has been training at the University of Texas with his godfather, the UT head strength coach, and former Longhorns and current NFL players like Buffalo Bills cornerback Aaron Williams and Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.
Wade said he hasn’t worked out with any teams, but he’s talked to several on the phone and there’s a good amount of interest. Like the other draft candidates, Wade’s not sure when he’ll be selected, but he thinks his sound technique will help him become a productive NFL cornerback sooner rather than later.
“I think I’ll play for a while and I think I’ll be productive,” Wade said. “They’re just going to get a smart DB who’s going to know the personnel, who’s going to play special teams and that’s going to get the ball back from the offense.”
Wade said he’ll most likely take Walters’ advice and go golfing or bowling with his family on draft day, and when he finally hears his name he’ll be able to exhale at last.
“It’s going to be crazy,” he said.
Hometown: Round Rock, Texas
H/W: 5-foot-11, 192 pounds
Combine numbers: 4.59 40-yard dash, 18 bench press reps, 34.5 inch vertical
What they’re saying: Ranked 11th best cornerback by CBSSports.com. Ranked 79th best prospect overall and projected to be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Stats: (2008) 4 interceptions, 3 pass deflections; (2009) 5 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 9 pass deflections (2010) 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 3 pass deflections; (2011) 2 interceptions, 13 pass deflections
Achievements: Second-team All-Pac-10 in 2011 and is tied for eighth in Arizona history with 28 passes defended.
They said it: “Trevin has a lot of potential. He and I had a lot of battles so I have a probably biased opinion but I think T-Wade, with the work that he can put in, with the time and effort, he can be a great player. He did a lot of great things at the U of A and he’ll continue that succeed.” – Former UA receiver Gino Crump
As Wade climbed the draft boards, Golden was nowhere to be found.
Despite his production at Arizona, along with his physicality and big-play ability, Golden isn’t on any mock drafts. He didn’t get a combine invite, he’s not high up in the defensive back ranks and few experts have projected him to get drafted.
But Golden’s ability to play both cornerback and safety could potentially catapult him into the later rounds.
“He’s versatile, can play corner or safety,” Walters said. “(As a) junior he had a great year at cornerback. He played well there. He’s a physical player. He’s very passionate about the game, loves the game. He also does a lot of film study. His versatility is going to help him a lot at the next level.”
Golden said in late February that the fact that he was forced to play both cornerback and safety at Arizona might have hurt his draft stock. But since the season ended the Fresno, Calif., native has done everything in his power to prove to scouts he can play at the next level, regardless of the position.
He trained at Michael Johnson Performance Center with Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and played in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game in Tucson. Golden shined at Arizona’s Pro Day and went through drills in front of all 32 teams at the Chicago Bears practice facility in early March.
He understands he may not hear his name called during this year’s draft, but all Golden wants is a chance, and he’s confident he can handle the rest.
“A lot of guys didn’t get combine invites and are doing great things in the NFL now,” Golden said. “Once I get my foot in the door, I’m going to be able to make the team because I can bring a lot of positive things.”
Position: Defensive back
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
H/W: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds
Pro Day numbers: 4.51 40-yard dash, 37.5 inch vertical, 19 bench press reps
What they’re saying: Ranked 17th best free safety by CBSSports.com. Ranked 384th best prospect overall and projected to go undrafted.
Stats: (2009) 2 interceptions, 1 pass deflection, 1 touchdown; (2010) 1 interception, 12 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble; (2011) 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 5 pass deflections
Achievements: Finished with a team-high 12 pass deflections his junior season and returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown against Washington his senior season.
He said it: “A lot of guys didn’t get Combine invites and are doing great things in the NFL now. Once I get my foot in the door, I’m going to be able to make the team because I can bring a lot of positive things.” — Golden